The dreaded staff meeting…. No one looks forward to them however; they are a necessary component for the efficient running of an organization. So why the frustration, resentment, and dread? Here’s why….
Facilitating a meeting is very much like facilitating a training in that it is one medium stuck with the task of effectively addressing issues affecting many different kinds of people with different kinds of learning and engagement styles. The person charged with the duty of facilitating the meeting will need to communicate various pieces of information so that employees are effectively educated and informed.
At Volunteer Maryland, we have what we fondly call Support Team Meetings or STMs. During the meetings we have the opportunity to update other team members about what we are working on, announcements, and future planning initiatives. Recently, my direct supervisor articulated a very specific vision for the purpose of our meetings: teambuilding, information-sharing, training, and innovation. Being that we have a rotating schedule for Support Team Meeting facilitation, and my day of reckoning is drawing near, I thought it appropriate to explore this topic a little further.
While the reason people meet varies, there are some common elements of all meetings that allow for success. According to the dictionary, a meeting can be the act of coming together; an assembly or conference of persons for a specific purpose; the body of persons present at an assembly or conference; a hostile encounter or duel; or an assembly for religious worship. Whether the reason for meeting is to discuss the effectiveness of a new marketing strategy or to prepare for a battle to the death; there should always be a purpose or objective for a meeting. No one wants to feel as if their time is being taken advantage of. Making sure a clear purpose and objective is articulated before the start of a meeting is a great step to establishing the need for a meeting. Remember, meeting objectives can have multiple layers; especially if there are several items to discuss on the agenda. That brings me to my next point; an agenda!
My least favorite thing in the world is scheduling. I am chronically impaired when it comes to punctuality, however being that I live in a monochronic culture*, it is necessary for me to respect time as an entity that is valued. Meetings should follow the same line of thought when it comes to respecting time. Setting an agenda and making it available to participants will help the meeting facilitator show respect for participant’s time, and to aid in keeping the meeting contained within the time parameters in within which it was scheduled, thus allowing her/him to stay on task.
It’s funny when one thinks of the best things she/he has ever had or experienced. People often say that they ate the best meal ever, or had the best day ever, or that they saw the best movie ever. You rarely hear someone say: “gosh, that was the best staff meeting I’ve ever been to…!” I, however, have had the good fortune of attending some pretty super staff meetings. You know; the kinds that leave you all tingly inside….with goosebumps….and passion about your job. Sound familiar? No? Well, all of these super meetings had one thing in common: collaboration. Giving participants a voice in addressing key business items is another component for success during meeting facilitation. A setting in which individual actors can feel heard and understood and in which steps can be outlined to address voiced concerns is great for fostering innovation and creativity. Further, tying these issues back to the mission of the organization allows participants the chance to see the value of staff meetings as a practice and thus inspire them to contribute to their effectiveness by actively participating.
Here are some other tips for successful meeting planning and facilitation: http://web.mit.edu/hr/oed/learn/meetings/art_agenda.html
Tell us about a positive staff meeting experience that you’ve had, whether you were leading the meeting or a participant in the meeting. What made it a positive experience? What about a less than positive meeting experience, what could have made it better?
*The term monochron has to do with our time sense: to monochronic cultures, time is divided into fixed elements — seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and so on — temporal blocks that can be organized, quantified and scheduled http://www.harley.com/writing/time-sense.html